Research Institute for Art and Design Art (RIAD) is one of the largest Research Institutes at Ulster University, with more than 50 academic staff actively engaged in research, teaching and academic enterprise. Ulster’s Art and Design research, including architecture, is in the global premier league with a research environment for staff and research students that was assessed to be 100% internationally excellent/world leading in the most recent nationwide assessment, the REF2014.
Research students are members of the RI and of 5 interconnected clusters that are driven by shared research interest in themes that are of value to society, culture and the economy. The REF2014 also recognised Ulster’s focus on practice and applied research in over 70% outstanding impact, the highest accolade. Research staff at Ulster achieved highest percentage of world leading publications within the University and the 3rd highest rating in the UK sector as a whole. Over 75% of staff research publications are world leading or internationally excellent.
The University welcomes applicants interested in research relevant to all art and design disciplines including fine art, applied art and craft, design, sculpture, painting, textiles, fashion, photography, moving image, animation, ceramics, silversmithing and jewellery, interior design, architecture, art history, creative industries, cultural industries and curation.
About this course
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Art and Design PhD Research has a history of three decades and represents the largest art and design doctoral cohort of any institution on the island of Ireland, also comparing very well with UK institutions in track record and size. All-Ireland research engagement is ensured through our partnership in GRADCAM (Dublin), NI Gradschool and research projects with other institutions.
Art and Design research at Ulster University’s particular strengths lie in interdisciplinary research, research with practice, art research related in relation to civic and societal challenges and in the key processes and concepts which underwrite innovative research practice in art and design. Research is encouraged in a context that investigates and redefines inherited models of practice and categories of value. The impact of digital media and new technologies on the production, distribution and mediation of art and design are important considerations in much research. Research questions are examined in the context of the wider social/economic/political arena of the nation and the world.
As a full time student, the expectation is that you will work on your project on a daily basis, either on or off campus as agreed with your supervisor. You will be entitled to 40 days holiday per annum.
Part time students are expected to meet with their supervisors on a regular basis, most usually this would be monthly but this is dependent on the project area.How to apply
We recognise a range of qualifications for admission to our courses. In addition to the specific entry conditions for this course you must also meet the University’s General Entrance Requirements.
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You will need to hold a First of Upper Second Class Honours degree (or equivalent) in an area relevant to your chosen project to be able to apply.
If you have obtained an undergraduate degree from a non-UK institution, we can advise you on how it compares to the UK system.
English Language Requirements
English language requirements for international applicants
The minimum requirement for research degree programmes is Academic IELTS 6.0 with no band score less than 5.5. This is the only acceptable certificate for those requiring to obtain a Tier 4 visa.
Ulster recognises a number of other English language tests and comparable IELTS equivalent scores.
Careers & opportunities
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Although academia is considered to be the most obvious path for any PhD holder, with around two thirds of our graduates remaining in the Higher Education or Research sectors, the degree also paves way for a career in industries centred on research and innovation.
PhD graduates are recognised by employers to hold valuable transferrable skills, as the nature of the degree trains candidates in creativity, critical inquiry, problem solving, negotiation skills, professionalism and confidence.
The most recent Ulster survey of PhD graduates found that 92% had secured employment within the first year since graduation (HESA Destination of Leavers Survey 2015).
Ulster University welcomes applications from all sections of the community and from persons with disabilities. It is University policy to assess all applications using academic criteria and on the basis of equality of opportunity and you should be assured that reasonable adjustments will be made should you require them.
Once you have selected your chosen project from the lists available on the Faculty pages, you are advised to make contact with the named supervisor on the project as they will be able to guide you in writing your research proposal.
You should then apply using our online application system: ulster.ac.uk/applyonlineHow to apply
Fees and funding
A number of funded scholarships are available across the University each year for PhD projects. Applications for studentships will be considered on a competitive basis with regard to the candidate's qualifications, skills, experience and interests.
Sources of funding
Fees (per annum)
Home and EU £4195
Home and EU £1490
Home and EU (with External Sponsor paying fees) £2130
Distance Research Study (Home and EU) £6390
Research facilities and groups
Research Students are members of the Research Institute for Art and Design. Under the Director of the Research Institute for Art and Design, 5 Research Clusters were established in 2010. Art Conflict and Society, Art and Context, Creative Ecologies, Space and Place, and Future and Virtual Worlds. There is an annual Research Institute away day and occasional seminars, Visiting lecturers and events throughout the year. The Research institute also has cross cutting interest in archives and ephemeral art practices.
Research students are aligned to a cluster that provides an additional intellectual and critical environment for their research studies. The research publications emerging from the subject are evidence of the University’s reputation as a centre of international research excellence in the field.
The interdisciplinary nature of contemporary art and creative industries means that postgraduate study within the Art and Design subject area also frequently involves teamwork, is cross-disciplinary, or conducted in collaboration with researchers from outside the centre, including partners in other institutions, industrial networks and international collaborators. Cross-Faculty and interdisciplinary topics are welcomed.
Research Graduate School
Researchers benefit from the community of peers in the Faculty Research Graduate School, headed by Professor Neil Hewitt. The Research Graduate School has administrative responsibility for all aspects of the art and design PhD researchers’ progress from initial application through to final examination including an annual conference and other events.
The majority of Art and Design Research doctoral students are based in the Cathedral Quarter, Belfast Campus. The refurbishment of the University’s Belfast campus provides Art and Design with a purpose-built environment that follows over 160 years of art and design education in Belfast. The Belfast PhD suite is a purpose built space with adjacent study, editing and meeting spaces. Research facilities for students at Belfast include a recently built research student home base with workspaces, networked computing, access to inter- and intranet, printing and scanning facilities.
The Belfast campus accommodates state of the art Learning Resource Centre, containing a substantial collection of material on Art and Design in the form of books, journals, periodicals, videos, CD-ROMs, a 35mm slide collection, and it offers access to a wide range of e-publications. The campus also has workshop production facilities for: ceramics/embroidery/wood/metal/plastic/silver and jewellery/textiles print/weave/knit/ stitching/felting/fashion/photography/animation/ video/printmaking. Architecture is growing area for research and practice. General and specialist computing laboratories provide access to Macs, PCs, and workstations with connections to the Internet. Specialist clusters of computers are located throughout the campus.
Staff research areas
Supervision is available across the broad areas of Art and Design disciplines and themes. Outlined below are the research interests and areas of expertise of some of our supervisors. Further details of staff research publications can be browsed on the Ulster Institutional Repository (UIR).
Senior Research Fellow, Belfast School of Art.
Dr Julie Brennan
Reader in Constructed Textiles Design, Belfast School of Art.
Dr Suzanna Chan
Lecturer in Art History and Theory at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Supervised PhD topics to date include contemporary painting and relationships with class and identity; craft and national identity; and the ‘horrific’ in feminist video art practice. Her research focuses on contemporary art, gender and ‘race’ in visual culture and cultural discourses, and postcolonial and feminist theories and practices. She has published peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, catalogue essays and reviews on gender, diaspora, national identity and ‘race’ in art and visual culture, and diasporic and racialised spatial productions and practices. Suzanna is currently completing a book which addresses relations between contemporary art by women, migration and diaspora (IB Tauris). Applications related to any of the above areas of enquiry are welcome.
Lecturer in History & Theory, Belfast School of Art.
Lecturer in Art & Design – Foundation Studies, Belfast School of Art.
Reader in architecture and an educator with experience in using documentary filmmaking and the professional interview as research methods. His research interests are centred on the processes and people of architecture including topics that address pedagogy and the activity of a professional. This is demonstrated in his research of architect’s sketchbook and how they are used in both practice and in teaching and in his research of the work of Eileen Gray (architectural and photographic) in relation to notions of buildings that can be read as 'archives'.
Associate Lecturer in Sculpture and a multi-media artist whose works often relate to ‘place’ or context. He employs a wide range of artistic processes, including Performance Art, Public Sculpture, Installation Art, and collaborative projects. He has performed & exhibited in diverse contexts throughout Europe, America and China. He has initiated and curated events and projects both nationally and internationally and has been involved with artist run organizations throughout Ireland including Bbeyond, The Sculptors Society of Ireland, Visual Artists Ireland, Flaxart etc. He has created more than ten Public Artworks/Commissions in a range of media, and has experience of working as an artist on design teams.
Senior Lecturer in Fashion Design, Belfast School of Art.
Lecturer in Architecture, Belfast School of Architecture.
Associate Lecturer in Time-based Media. He is a visual artist, filmmaker and curator. He has particular expertise in using documentary film practices to investigate sensitive and challenging societal issues including imprisonment, political prisoners, relationships, contested spaces and ethics. HE also has experience n research concerning curation and gallery contexts.
Associate Lecturer in photography for the BA Hons Photography and also tutors students working toward photographic MFAs and practice-based PhDs. Kaylynn holds both an MA in documentary photography and a practice-based PhD in photography from the University of Wales, Newport. Princeton Architectural Press published Kaylynn’s book The Day-to-Day Life of Albert Hastings in 2007 and in 2009 she was a recipient of an artist grant from the prestigious Anonymous Was A Woman foundation. Kaylynn’s research interests include documentary practice conducted within a fine art context, and photographic investigations of our notions surrounding home.
Associate Head of School of the Belfast School of Art.
Professor Willie Doherty
Professor of Video Art and exhibits photographic and video installations internationally. He was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1994 and 2003. He has been selected to participate in dOCUMENTA 13 in June 2012. His research interests include the investigation of new strategies for narrative within contemporary video art that embrace the spatial possibilities of installation inside and outside of the gallery and that take account of the legacies of mainstream cinema and experimental film. He welcomes applications for Fine Art Studio Research which contribute to this dialogue.
Dr Chérie Driver
Lecturer in Art Theory and is a member of the Research Institute Art and Design. Since joining the University as a researcher in 2005 she has worked on a number of collaborative research projects as Research Assistant/Associate in the area of ‘art and its locations’ and specializing in art in contested spaces and art and documentation. Since 2010 she has been working as a Lecturer in the School of Art and Design and teaches on the Undergraduate programme and coordinates a module on the Critical Context of Public Practice within the MA Art in Public. She is a research partner on the project ‘art based research/ research based art’ concerned with the role of art as research, its function in public space and its possibilities for transformation in contested or divided cities. Dr. Driver’s research is related to Feminist theory and practice in the visual arts, Irish art history, theory and practices, art and its locations, art in public, art in contested spaces. She welcomes applications related to these areas.
Professor Karen Fleming
Director of the Research Institute Art and Design and welcomes research applications related to ethics in contemporary art practices, creative industries, contemporary and historical textile art; textiles and culture-particularly relating to linen and linen diaspora; craft and applied art; art, craft and science. Fleming’s own practice is established in exhibiting work nationally and internationally, creative industry, curation, published papers and cross-disciplinary sci-art collaboration concerning the haptic and tactility in science and medical education.
Lecturer in Architecture, Belfast School of Architecture.
Lecturer in Photography with research interests in photographic research into the representation of –and definitions of- working class communities in the UK. His research context includes challenges the accepted/ authorized recent histories of youth culture and social resistance. He has particular research expertise in the use of portraiture and observed documentary photography and in long-term community documentary research.
Lecturer in Photography with research interests including place, diaspora and home.
Dr Deirdre Greaney
Lecturer in Architecture, Belfast School of Architecture
Lecturer in Interior Design, Belfast School of Architecture
Senior Lecturer, School of Creative Arts. Anthony’s main interest is interaction design. His work often involves ethnographic studies to understand existing user behaviour and seek new design opportunities. He is interested in finding methods to embed design in the software development lifecycle. His current projects are about the “internet of things”. He also runs a University spin out company (EyeSpyFX) which makes mobile phone apps and solutions for remote video monitoring.
Lecturer in Illustration, Belfast School of Art.
Lecturer in 3D Design, School of Architecture and Design with research interests in ceramics, design. Research with practice considers artefacts as discourse, object and user performance rituals pedagogical research considers the role of drawing in contemporary art education.
Associate architecture lecturer and an award-winning architect. His research interests include applying outcomes of archival research Belfast regeneration and a thematic narrative approach to practical project proposals. His regeneration studies of Belfast find longitudinal outcomes of short term or site limited regeneration policies that have international application.
Dr Justin Magee
Senior Lecturer in Product Design and Course Director for ‘Design for Creative Practice’ and Subject Director for design at Magee. He was Director of Academic Enterprise for 5 years and retains strong commercial engagement, entrepreneurship and enterprise activity. As a practicing product designer, he has an interest embracing the wider field of product and transport design issues. His main research interests and publications relate to clinical applications and unmet needs through product design, transformational design and digital modelling/ animation. He welcomes applications in any of these fields.
Professor Greg Maguire
Professor of Animation. Greg Maguire is Professor of Animation at the School of Art and Design in Belfast. His main areas of interest are in digital characters and tools for animation. He has been instrumental in the launch and development of Walt Disney Feature Animation, Industrial Light & Magic, Lucasfilm Animation, Electronic Arts, and Digital Domain. His filmography includes, Walt Disney’s Dinosaur, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Star Wars: Clone Wars, Happy Feet, Terminator Salvation and Avatar. He is a member of the Visual Effects Society, Association for Computing Machinery, and the Irish Film and Television Society
Dr Joseph McBrinn
Reader in History of Design and Applied Arts. His research centres primarily on the intersections of Queer Theory and Design History. He has written widely on art and design from the eighteenth to the twenty-first centuries covering topics such as Design Reform; Modern Craft; National Romanticism; and Contemporary Craft. He has a particular interest in textiles and especially the histories of embroidery and tailoring. He is currently engaged in three book projects that deal with sewing and masculinity; fashion and national identity; and the history of design in Ireland.
Senior Lecturer in Digital Imaging, Belfast School of Art.
Reader in Fine Art, lecturing on the MFA Fine Art course across a broad range of fine art disciplines, specialising in lens-based media. Mary’s photographic work has been widely exhibited nationally and internationally. Her research interests include fine art photography’s relationship with the history of painting, the place and meanings of landscape within contemporary fine art practice and the development of lens-based fine art media in relation to traditions of cinema.
Lecturer in Painting with an established international reputation for research with practice. His research considers narrative painting to historiography. His use of painting practice positions this works as contemporary visual research in the face of proliferating Internet and digital information. Layers of contemporary and historical references forming his new representations question the veracity of historical narratives. McKenzie uses practice in his research to create paintings that can be read as part documentary and part fiction, filtered through a digital and collaged process of transformation.
Professor Ian Montgomery
Dean of Faculty of Art, Design and the Built Environment and was previously Head of School for Art and Design and Research Co-ordinator for the Art and Design Research Institute. He currently teaches on a number of undergraduate design programmes and is an active PhD supervisor in the Design and Communication areas. Ian is interested in research applications in the fields of graphic design, information design, typography, design perception, and corporate identity. He has had academic papers published in the areas of ‘graphic design perception’ and ‘design appropriateness’.
Moore is currently supervising 2 PhD’s and is research active in the fields of Ceramic Art Practice and Theory. Moore welcomes research questions within the Applied Arts and their relationship to the broader context of visual art practice. Moore has based his research internationally including Canada, UAS, China, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, CZ, CH. He is represented in several international collections and has several conference and journal publications on the context of Irish Ceramic Art. He is an Executive Member of the Council of the International Academy of Ceramics and a registered maker of both UK and Irish Crafts Councils.
Associate Lecturer in Silversmithing & Jewellery. Murphy’s research explores function throughout the medium of silver, both practically and conceptually. Her research applies design methodologies to the creation silverware, which frequently incorporate collaborative practices. Murphy’s concept of the silver landscape for the table explores the interaction of the user with the piece
Lecturer in Photography. Research interests include photography and World War 1, contemporary photography, Irish photography. Recent publications include Re-imaging and modern memory of the Great War.
Dr Aisling O’Beirn
Associate Lecturer in Sculpture. Current work examines spatial politics by investigating technologies and theories behind space exploration. It is an extension of previous work on the politics of place, but still rooted in uncovering tensions between disparate forms of official and unofficial information. It manifests variously as sculpture, installation, animation and site-specific projects. O’Beirn’s sculptural and installational work has been exhibited in both gallery and site-specific contexts, nationally and internationally. She welcomes practice based research projects, which explore theses issues.
Lecturer in Computer Animation, Belfast School of Art.
Professor Martin Parr
Professor of Photography, Belfast School of Art.
Dr Tanja Poppelreuter
Lecturer in Architectural History. Research interest include architecture, modernism including publications on 20th Century architecture (including Gropius, Lowitsch, Franz Muller-Lyer), contemporary art, theory and writing on contemporary and historic architecture, books, curation.
Lecturer in Interactive Multi-media Design, Belfast School of Art.
Lecturer in Creative Technologies and Design, School of Creative Arts and Technologies.
Associate Lecturer in Fine Art: Painting, Belfast School of Art.
Lecturer in Design Management, Belfast School of Art.
Dr Jenny Russell
Lecturer in Architecture and associate head of the Belfast School of Architecture, Russell’s research interests include examining the Relationship between Youth Identity and Spatial Perception within the Context of Religious Architecture. She has investigated how young people from different religious backgrounds perceive elements of place, religion and identity and how they interpret and negotiate the spatial layout of religious buildings and perceive the relationship between the space and the religion itself. She has also researched how to communicate the concept and process of architecture to children and applied this in a children’s book.
Reader in Fine Art, School of Art and Design. His work manifests itself variously as sculpture, installation, video, collaborative – and site-specific projects. He examines developments in contemporary sculpture. Sander’s sculptural and installation work has been exhibited widely in gallery and site-specific contexts, nationally and internationally. He welcomes practice based research projects, which explore these issues.
Professor Paul Seawright
Head of Belfast School of Art, Professor of Photography. He was awarded the Irish Museum of Modern Art/Glen Dimplex Award in 1997 and represented Wales at the Venice Biennale in 2003. His research interests include the relationship between art and documentary, photography and conflict, photography and the city and the place of photography in contemporary art. He is interested in practice centered research proposals that address these areas and particularly invites applications to join the research team investigating the history of the Irish Photobook (with Donovan Wylie and Martin Parr).
Lecturer in Art & Design, Co-leader MFA. Research topics he considers are performative/experiential spatial narrative through practice based art research. Urban/rural and landscape studies, Intervention, installation, collaboration. His research pursues a creative and often collaborative relationship to space which incorporates the experiential. Research exploring spaces often with a physical engagement to produce ‘landscape’ (both rural and urban) artworks based on that experience. This research should seek to draw from, document, reflect experiences of “being there” whilst also linking to socio-historical contexts - articulating a societal engagement with place.
Lecturer in Architecture, Belfast School of Architecture.
Professor Peter Walker
Head of Belfast School of Architecture. Research interests include sustainable building design, for example in in Egypt, the development of assessment tools for measuring the sustainability and energy efficiency of buildings and the relationship of architects and contractors in 'Design and Build' procurement.
Associate Lecturer in Fine & Applied Art: Painting, Belfast School of Art.
Lecturer in Produce & Furniture Design, Belfast School of Architecture
Lecturer in Photography for BA Hons Photography. He is a member of Magnum Photos and was short listed for the Duetsch Borse Photography Prize 2010. His research interests include forms of photographic representation, the photographic medium in the context of art, photography and history, cinema and photography, literature and photography. He is interested in practice centered research proposals that address these areas
Professor Karen Fleming
Art & Design Research Institute Director
Tel: +44 (0)28 9536 7267